That’s twice in one week I have heard someone talking about hop picking in Kent. It’s that time of year. September. Eastenders used to do it; women and children mainly, leaving the men-folk in London. It was hard work and conditions were basic, but the women could make enough money to buy the kids boots and coats to last the winter. And although the children (who were missing the beginning of the school term) were often also put to work, many remembered this time with great fondness as the closest thing they had to a holiday.
When I hear stories like this, or those of fellow careershifters, who up sticks and move to foreign cities, or to deprived rural parts of the world, I start to get itchy feet.
Yesterday I visited the gardens at Highgrove, the home of Prince Charles. A far cry indeed from a deprived rural area! I have absolutely no interest in Prince Charles but I’ve longed for years to see his gardens in the flesh. They did not disappoint (apart from the Carpet Garden, which I thought mimsy). In fact, I found myself in tears at some of the vistas or corners or combinations of plants. But then I am a great big cry-baby.
Anyway, as I drove there alone, I passed through places like Malmesbury and Tetbury and I even went off piste through some smaller places. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day and everything looked lovely. And I thought: ‘I could live here’. But why limit myself to England? I could live anywhere. Not now, but in a few years. Anywhere in the whole world.
Whenever I go anywhere I imagine living there.
One of my favourite places in the world is the Italian Lakes. I used to fantasize about living on the edge of Lake Orta or Como, looking across still water and feeling tranquil. Pie in the sky obviously, since I don’t even seem capable of supporting myself on my home turf. In those days it wasn’t about supporting myself; my ex and I used to talk about buying a holiday home. He was always about to strike it rich, so while he very often made no money for long periods, he reassured me that he would soon; he pretended that he was doing better than he was and, Walter Mitty – like, he unhelpfully kept the fantasies alive.
But I can imagine one day not too far in the future, if I don’t have a job which prevents it, spending some time doing agriturismo or something. It makes me laugh as well to realise the overwhelming unlikeliness that I would ever have done such a thing while married to BH. And yet I think it would be great fun!
I spent a summer working on a kibbutz once. Of course, I was young. So were all the others. We had to wake before dawn and sit in the back of a bumpy pickup to be taken to the banana fields, where we were tasked with propping up the banana plants because otherwise, the weight of the fruit would uproot them. I had a friend who was afraid of the bats that flew about at that time, and she got transferred to a cushy job minding children by the pool. But I think we had more fun. We slept four to a room then, but hey, maybe I have conquered my fear of having a roomie and could do so again!
Both of my parents were foreign. To the UK, to the places we lived, and to one another. We travelled a lot; we spoke foreign languages, we ate foreign food. (Remember, when I was little, pasta was foreign.) I was born in London but moved aged ten to Iran until the revolution brought us back. I spent my year off in Germany, my year abroad in Germany. Then I went to work in HK. And study in France. And wherever I went, I visited nearby places: Afghanistan, China, Malaysia and so on. As I mentioned in a previous post, I like feeling foreign. Then I married an Englishman, settled in London, had kids and … I tried to get us to move to San Francisco before the first child was born but it didn’t prove possible, workwise. And then: kids, schools, my mum was getting on, so was his, and before you know it, 20 years have passed.
Image: to remind me of my perfect day in Highgrove, and because I am ‘putting down roots’ in the horrible garden I inherited when I moved (even though I want to leave) I bought a rosa Highgrove.